The independent news organization of Duke University

Letter to the editor

Last Monday, The Chronicle published a column titled “A Twitter presidency,” where the author discussed the nascent relationship between the Oval Office and “the Twitter-sphere.” Characterizing Trump’s tweets as “crass” and “simply inappropriate,” columnist Lizi Byrnes-Mandelbaum questioned how the American public could not only tolerate, but elect a candidate who is so openly offensive. She aptly noted that while scandals are nothing new for Washington—citing the affairs of Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, and John F. Kennedy—America’s tolerance for egregious acts in the White House is. 

Byrnes-Mandelbaum credits this development to social media: “It is, in large part, the fault of social media, and the significance of it in our society. It normalizes the salacious details and scandals that once ended careers, allowing for a lude, crude billionaire-entertainer to bypass moral tests and rise to the top.”

Much of what Byrnes-Mandelbaum says is agreeable; Donald Trump’s tweets are “crass” and “simply inappropriate.” Moreover, she seems right to suggest that social media has played an integral role in normalizing previously career-ending comments or scandals. That said, her conclusion is perplexing. She writes, “Isn’t that what makes our country exciting, though?! It’s what draws in ratings, it’s what generates buzz.” This tone—which effectively turns the American presidency into entertainment—could be unintentional or sarcastic, but it nonetheless remains too apathetic to the terrifying nature of Trump’s Twitter politics.

To be fair, she applauded the satirical “roguePOTUSSTAFF” account that emerged following Trump’s inauguration, describing it as a “reward” to the “Twitter-sphere,” but this applause is simply not enough. In an era where the President uses 140 characters or less to undermine the judiciary system, blame political opposition for potential terrorist attacks, and stoke fear to enable a ban on Muslim-majority nations (which let’s not forget has directly impacted Duke professor Mohsen Kadivar), we cannot afford to sit back and consume Trump’s outright dangerous tactics. Donald Trump’s tweets are not entertainment; they are a threat to the social fabric that makes America great.


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